Zoo Tycoon 2
Microsoft might have gotten away with dropping the "2" from Zoo Tycoon 2's game title, because compared to its predecessor -- excepting the familiar theme song and the features that must be common to any zoo building sim (for instance, enclosures for the animals) -- this is nearly an entirely new game. Besides the expected vastly improved graphics and animation, game styles and challenges that extend playability far beyond its ancestor have been added.
There's the Freeform game, with unlimited money -- that is, no money worries at all -- and all animals and buildings, etc., available. Pick a region anywhere in the world for your zoo and start building. There's the Challenge Game, an open-ended management of a single zoo, with a bankroll that you designate at start, but a limit on the animals and other items initially available. Appropriate one-time and long-term challenges arise, which you can accept or decline. Accomplishing them will add cash to your coffers and fame to your reputation, attracting more visitors. Then there's the Campaign Game. Each campaign consists of a handful of scenarios with related themes and problems, like Troubled Zoos, and are completed in order, unlocking when the previous is completed. Completing the most difficult campaign, "Conservation Programs," unlocks a new campaign called "The Mysterious Panda".
As you build your zoo, providing delightful conditions for the animals and the guests, they will breed (the animals, not the guests, that is). You can then turn around and reintroduce animals to the wild. A helicopter will swoop in and carry the animal away, adding to your fame rating. A healthy zoo means happy, breeding animals, more guests, admissions, donations and fame. Once staffed, your zoo will run itself, and in Guest Mode (see below) you can lend a hand and feed, groom and, yes, clean up after all the animals.
The main menu also includes Downloads - a walled off online location that connects directly from the game. Already there's one package listed there for download, Black Leopard and Stuffed Prey Dummy. This online destination apparently offers no interaction with other online users and so would be quite safe for unsupervised connection.
Track the progress of your efforts with Quick Stats, a more visually oriented status screen that gets you into the skins of your animals and the minds of your guests and staff. Get even more detail in your Zoo Status screens, which include graphs and the all-important Fame report.
Overall the terrain editor is up to the latest standards and also goes a bit beyond with some smart recognition features, like when you paint a biome type inside an enclosure, the brush will stop at the enclosure's border, "coloring in" the shape, so to speak. And Rubber Band mode for laying fences makes that chore a snap.
Zoo Tycoon 2, for the animal lover young and old, is far more than twice the game as its predecessor and could easily have been called Zoo Tycoon Squared.